the networked recluse



silo of emily dickinsonThe Morgan Library and Museum is not on my radar. Sometimes one of their exhibitions or lectures or concerts catches my eye.  I’m Nobody! Who are you? is an exhibition featuring the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson.   As part of the show, the Morgan is offering a few related programs.  The Networked Recluse was the title of the talk given by Mike Kelly, curator of the show and Head of the Frost Library, Amherst College yesterday.


Dickinson began sewing sheets of her written poetry into small booklets or packets called fascicles.

“The collage above is one of Dickinson’s most enigmatic manuscripts.  The two clippings tucked under the postage stamp were cut from the May 1870 issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine which included a brief sketch of George Sand.  The article was prompted by the forthcoming translations of Sand’s works by Robert Brothers – the publisher who would issue Dickinson’s works throughout the 1890s.  Interpretations of this poem range widely from playful verse about sitting in the outhouse to a Freudian meditation on Dickinson’s father, represented by the locomotive on the stamp.” accompanying text from the exhibition.41cs2md7xkl-_sx390_bo1204203200_

The Gorgeous Nothings is a book I purchased a number of years ago.  I have a long love affair with scraps of paper.  Below are some of the many shapes Dickinson used to write poetry.
ed1-copyKelly had a single-minded purpose for his talk.  He wanted to debunk the idea that Dickinson, known as a hermit in a white dress was wrong.  She was connected.  If only facebook and twitter existed during her lifetime, she would have been a devoted contributor.  She was connected and networked with several friends over many years.  Some have argued that she had a lesbian lover others wish to prove that she had suitors.  It seems totally irrelevant.


By the time poet Emily Dickinson was 14 years old, she had undertaken the compilation of an herbarium, a book of pressed flowers and plants, a hobby among the girls of her time.

The Herbarium contains 424 specimens arranged on 66 leaves and delicately attached with small strips of paper. The specimens are native plants, plants naturalized to western Massachusetts where Dickinson lived or houseplants. Every page is accompanied by a transcription of Dickinson’s neat handwritten labels that identified each plant’s scientific name.

“I think that you could read a lot into the herbarium if you wanted to,” says Leslie A. Morris, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Houghton Library, Harvard University. “The first specimen on the first page is jasmine, a plant Dickinson was fond of.  “Jasmine has as one of its nicknames ‘poet’s jessamine’; it can also mean passion in the language of flowers. – from the Harvard College Library

As far as the exhibition is concerned the above little tidbit was the most interesting to me.  You can leaf through several pages of Herbarium on an interactive device at the exhibition.  On this day, January 20, 2017, I wish remind myself of the greatness of one American woman poet.

To make a prairie (1755) by Emily Dickinson

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee.

And revery.

The revery alone will do,

If bees are few.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260) by Emily Dickinson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog – 

To tell one’s name – the livelong June – 

To an admiring Bog!


A narrow Fellow in the Grass (1096) by Emily Dickinson

A narrow Fellow in the Grass

Occasionally rides –

You may have met him? Did you not

His notice instant is –

The Grass divides as with a Comb,

A spotted Shaft is seen,

And then it closes at your Feet

And opens further on –

He likes a Boggy Acre –  

A Floor too cool for Corn –

But when a Boy and Barefoot

I more than once at Noon

Have passed I thought a Whip Lash

Unbraiding in the Sun

When stooping to secure it

It wrinkled And was gone –

Several of Nature’s People

I know, and they know me

I feel for them a transport

Of Cordiality

But never met this Fellow

Attended or alone

Without a tighter Breathing

And Zero at the Bone.

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